Tensions rise as Basque separatist leader jailed

8th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

8 June 2007 , MADRID- Spanish police arrested the Basque separatist movement's most prominent politician on a court order to start serving a 15-month sentence for defending terrorism, a court official said.

8 June 2007

MADRID- Spanish police arrested the Basque separatist movement's most prominent politician on a court order to start serving a 15-month sentence for defending terrorism, a court official said.

Arnaldo Otegi, the 48-year-old leader of the outlawed Batasuna party, was arrested in the Basque city of San Sebastian and police are now taking him to prison, a National Court official said on condition of anonymity.

The ruling is the latest blow to the pro-independence movement since the armed separatist group ETA called off a 15-month-old cease-fire on Tuesday.

Otegi was arrested after the Supreme Court rejected his appeal against a conviction handed down in April of last year over remarks he made at a rally in memory of a leader of the armed separatist group ETA on the 25th anniversary of his death.

Prosecutors say Otegi in effect praised terrorism, which is a crime in Spain. Otegi's lawyer said the politician was simply exercising his right to free speech and discussing ways to end the 40-year Basque conflict.

A five-judge panel at the Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the appeal.

The case then went back to the National Court, the lower tribunal that originally issued the guilty verdict. It had the option of suspending the sentence because it was less than two years, but chose not to and Otegi was arrested.

The court official said that only minutes elapsed from the time the higher court ruled to when Otegi was picked up on his way to a news conference.

The ruling is certain to infuriate the Basque independence movement.

On Wednesday, the government ordered a notorious ETA killer sent back to prison after recovering in hospital from a 114-day hunger strike, rather than let him serve out the rest of his term under house arrest, an option that had been raised initially.

Three ETA members were arrested Thursday in southwest France.

[Copyright AP with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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